This is a time for Full Disclosure of as much as one understands and to work in areas that are new or untested with an open mind. In fact at this time we may need open mids more in areas that we consider fully researched. An interesting set of articles appeared in a local paper and the following comment was submitted (it is unlikely that it will be released so it is included below):
The March 8, 2016 edition of the Hampshire Gazette contains a number of interesting notes and articles: On the Opinion Page, the Editiorial, “Making world better place one true story at a time”, the political cartoon, a letter by Dr. Richard Stein, “Take the time to read up on fair carbon pricing”, and the Business feature story, “NextChar”.
All of these items are important parts of a very incomplete story about which the authors or subjects know much more than is being told or if not then they (and all of us) should dig to know more. Taking them in reverse order, the NextChar article and Dr. Stein's letter are about carbon and its importance and potential or known effects and the drivers of the current use paradigm. The failure of these items to expose anything about the urgency for very local effective carbon negative proactivity is unfortunate because both main characters of those notes know much more about this than is expressed. There are few individuals who know more about the long term stability of carbon in the form or charcoal than do Dr. Stein and Dr. McLaughlin. Both have been exposed to documentation of Japanese discoveries of volcanic charcoal that has been radio carbon dated to be 55,000 years old. There is also a recent communication from a Nicaraguan agricultural researcher who is calling for a much more open research venue to explore the variety and unpredictability of situations that develop from agricultural modifications including the use of no-till crop production. At this time it is most likely, that it is inappropriate to try to sell constructive actions like the use of “biochar” simply as a for-profit agricultural practice. Yet Dr. McLaughlin is to be commended for taking a lead in trying to form a local char production facility and to find users for the charcoal that can be characterized as a very stable – carbon sequestration – activity as well as a potentially beneficial agricultural practice. It is important for all concerned (all community members) to become familiar with the potential for charcoal to become an integrated community based vehicle for cleanup of many sources of our excesses and for it to eventually be used as both a carbon negative nutrient retention stable repository and agricultural soil amendment. It is not clear that the documented immediate successes of individual farmers can be relied upon as a sales promotion tool at this time. Such successes should not be ignored but should be available for study.
The Arctic Methane Emergency Group is describing the dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice and its likely connection to the unstable weather patterns we are now experiencing. One of their solutions to the problem is for there to be a global effort to both reduce current carbon emissions and take back past carbon emissions. The AMEG leadership has promoted the use of soil applied charcoal as a simple and local activity that will always be carbon negative and generally be benign or better. There is much more research that is needed, but we know that charcoal used as a water filter is effective for cleaning up drinking water, this kind of information needs to be spread through out the community to clean up other water resources.
At the same time there are other sources of truth that are becoming exposed and are also being and or have been suppressed. The word “also” is used above because the utility of “charcoal suitable for horticultural use” has been financially and academically disabled. The use of charcoal as a carbon negative soil addition is still financially impossible because of lack of acceptance by certification entities because they do not believe that the research available to them justifies their acceptance of the practice. The question comes to mind regarding who is calling for this kind of decision? Is there outside money involved as there is in all of our other endeavors?
Finally while it is indeed regrettable that the conditions in Pakistan place women in the quandary that local custom does, we have much more at stake in the unfolding details of what is wrong with the status-quo and the technologies, conditions, situations, etc. that are even now being released in piecemeal fashion that should / must change everything. So even the “one true story” theme has held back much more than is appropriate today. Keep up the good work, there is much more to do.